Making Tissues From Stem Cells
From regenerating blood cells following chemotherapy to making cartilage that will reduce the need for hip and knee replacement, stem cell therapy is transforming replacement and regenerative medicine.
Embryonic stem cells are immature cells that do not yet have a specialized function; they have the remarkable ability to form cells of any tissue in the body. This means they can turn into cell types as diverse as heart cells, blood cells, insulin-producing pancreatic cells and liver cells, and are in high demand to help regenerate tissues and organs damaged by various chronic diseases and conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease, leukemia, and diabetes.
Stem cells and their use in regenerative medicine are the focus of work being carried out by Canada Research Chair Gordon Keller. Keller studies the cues that direct embryonic stem cells to make different cell types. The knowledge he gains will form the basis for developing the specific cells needed to replace or regenerate cells that have been damaged through disease, accidents, or age. Besides his basic investigations into how stem cells and other cells work and become diseased, Keller is also working on growing human heart, liver and pancreatic cells from stem cells, and testing drug compounds on them in the lab.
Keller is part of an elite team of scientists and clinicians at the University of Toronto with expertise in a range of areas from stem cell research and biology to cancer research and organ repair. Together, they are making a profound impact on the field of regenerative medicine and ushering in a new era of better, more effective treatments.